Health Care Without Harm launches national Food Is Medicine strategy

  • US & Canada

$1M seed funding investment from the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation sets the stage for transformative impact

Health Care Without Harm announced the launch of a national Food is Medicine strategy thanks to a catalytic $1M investment from the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation which will be used to seed this critical work in the Northeast region. This strategy aims to transform our national food system to improve the health of individuals, communities, and the planet.

Health Care Without Harm exists to mobilize the health care sector to protect public health from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. Since 2005, the organization has engaged in transformative food system work with programming that harnesses the purchasing power, expertise, and voice of the health care sector to build a sustainable, equitable, and health-promoting food system that benefits everyone, and in particular the most underserved populations.

The Food is Medicine movement has emerged as one of the most promising strategies for effectively addressing chronic health conditions and systemic health inequalities. Food is Medicine is “a spectrum of services and health interventions that recognize and respond to the critical link between nutrition and chronic illness,” including medically tailored meals, groceries, and fruit and vegetable prescriptions.

With these strategies, Health Care Without Harm sees a major opportunity to improve individual, community, and environmental health and equity by directing procurement in Food is Medicine initiatives to

  1. support small- and mid-scale regional food producers
  2. create market opportunities for farms and food businesses owned by people of color
  3. ensure business practices that create valued workforce environments
  4. incentivize environmentally sustainable and high-animal-welfare production practices.

All of these aims are in service of healthier individuals, communities, and the environment in the face of the climate crisis.

“The Lydia B. Stokes Foundation is enormously proud to deepen our support of Health Care Without Harm’s profound impact at the intersection of healthy food, healthy people, and healthy planet. Our partnership began more than 6 years ago, and this exciting next phase of work directly builds on the strong foundation we’ve laid together for resilient food systems that support the health of individuals and communities in the Northeast. We’re inspired by the possibilities of what our expanded seed investment grant will help create through innovation and best practices, not only benefitting our immediate community but also scaled as part of a national strategy.”
– Tom Willits, Lydia B. Stokes Foundation trustee

“We are excited to bring our expertise in values-based food purchasing to support the pioneers in the food is medicine movement so that we can attend to healing people, communities, and the environment in tandem.”
– Emma Sirois, Health Care Without Harm Healthy Food in Health Care program director

“Medically tailored meals are one of the least expensive and most effective ways to improve our health care system in an equitable way, and there's enormous potential for not only improving patient health and equity but also environmental health and equity through these practices. I'm inspired by the way this partnership between the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation and Health Care Without Harm seeks to integrate values-based purchasing into food is medicine initiatives, and to prepare a pathway to national scale for this impactful model.”
– Alissa Wassung, Food is Medicine Coalition executive director

Health Care Without Harm’s national Food is Medicine strategy is designed to support demonstrations of best practices through a community of learning composed of hospitals and health systems, community partners, payers, supply chain representatives, and other key stakeholders, and to leverage this community to create common standards and an evaluation framework. These tools will be used to scale the practices, policies, and essential regulatory changes necessary for a broader uptake of this work. Overall, the aim is to incentivize and help scale values-based purchasing within food is medicine programs on a national scale, to improve human and planetary health.

With this catalytic seed investment to launch Health Care Without Harm’s national strategy, the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation is fueling a significant expansion of the impact and scope of Food is Medicine strategies nationally. This partnership validates the organization as a leader in shaping this innovative approach, which holds enormous promise for improving the health of individuals, entire communities, and our food system as a whole. Health Care Without Harm is thrilled to be launching this in partnership with the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation, looking together towards the future to broaden the impact of Food is Medicine initiatives across the health sector.

We urgently need additional investment to maximize the potential of this powerful moment. If you want to join our movement, please email